Getting to Know Ralph Waldo Emerson and "Self-Reliance"

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Duff McKagan is the founding bassist of Guns N' Roses and the leader of Seattle's Loaded. His column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
Considering what a profound influence a book can have on one's life, it's amazing that the tiniest things can send us off in search of a new read. It can be word-of-mouth book gossip in line for an espresso, a note from a friend, or a movie about espionage.

I received a card a couple of weeks ago from a friend. I'm not one for the usual Hallmark "life-will-get-better-just-forge-ahead-let-the-sun-warm-your-face" type of malarkey, and usually skip quotes on the fronts of cards. But this particular card caught my eye, as the quote was by Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose writing I had yet to be exposed to. I gave the quote a second read:

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

I reread this about 28 times over the next few days, and became sort of enamored with this Emerson dude. How did he know I needed this? How did he know we all need this kick in the ass sometimes? What else does he have to say?

Some of us have religion and faith, and others reach for other forms of spirituality to help strengthen their lives. Many have faith in science and logic. Some of us have simple love from one's family. Others have nothing at all. For those of us always searching and open to ideas and thought, may I suggest Emerson's essay, "Self-Reliance."

Like the quote on that card a few weeks ago, "Self-Reliance" is a rereadable meditation of the innate feelings of victory and overcoming adversity that we each have at our own fingertips. It is the type of thing that you thank a person for turning you on to.

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving.

Now, for when you get done with "Self-Reliance," here are some of the books that I have been up and in for the past couple of months:

Black Box, Jennifer Egan: Her first piece of fiction since A Visit From the Goon Squad, this short story furthers my belief that Egan is fast becoming one of the best and forward-thinking fiction writers of our generation. She is punk rock and cosmopolitan and inventive. Black Box originally came out via Twitter, and this limited-edition bound proof copy that I have in hand will go on my bookshelf of greatness for sure.

The Greatest Battle, Andrew Nagorski: A lot of us think of the battle of Stalingrad as the big turning point of the Soviet/German conflict in World War II. Nagorski takes us through the (for some reason) little-told story of Hitler's army getting to the city limits of Moscow, and the great lengths that Stalin went through to save that city. It is amazing to think of the insanity of Stalin and Hitler, and how so very recent in history this was. A must-read for any war/history buff.

With Wings Like Eagles: The History of the Battle of Britain, Michael Korda: I just did a tour of the UK and Ireland, and it is always insightful for me to try to read a historical book on places that I am visiting. War history, for me, is much more that the study of conflict; it is an insight to how people coped and lived and suffered and triumphed in an extraordinary setting. Korda's Battle of Britain adds the insight of a top-notch historian to all that has been learned and exposed about the players in the build-up to this turning-point battle against Hitler and the Luftwaffe. Completely readable. Completely fascinating.

Dial M for Merthyr, Rachel Trezise: To be sure, I've only just started this book. It is one of those that, when it spills out of your backpack time after time at the airport or backstage or wherever, people in the know around me have given me an enthusiastic thumbs-up. This is a rock-and-roll book, a social study done in real time: a young rock band from Wales, and a young writer on the back of their tour bus taking notes. I've been looking forward to this.

More Duff!!!

-- How to Say No to Drugs (Even When You're Unzipped)

-- 10 Secrets to Surviving In a Touring Band. ILLUSTRATED!

 
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